Putin, Asad Sign Joint Declaration

Russian president Vladimir Putin and his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Asad have signed a joint declaration on the further development of friendship and cooperation between the two countries.

The declaration signed on Tuesday during Asad’s visit to Moscow said that “the world order of the 21st century should be based on the priority of international law, taking into account the interests of all states and the mechanisms of developing collective approaches to international problems with the UN playing a central coordinating part,” Interfax news agency reported.

The declaration stated that both sides “decisively condemn terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and confirm the strong necessity of mobilizing the world community’s efforts to actively battle this dangerous challenge to mankind”.

Asad who is on his first official visit to Russia urged the country to revive its Soviet-era influence in the Middle East. Speaking to students of the Moscow Institute for International Affairs, he said he would like to support Russia’s political course and “express a protest against the political course of the United States,” Reuters reported.

“Russia’s role is huge and Russia is well respected by third-world countries… These countries are really hoping that Russia will try to revive its lost positions in the world,” Asad said.

Russia will also write off 73 percent of Syria’s debt, Russian Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin was quoted by Interfax as saying. Syria’s total debt is $13.4 billion.

Asad had earlier said he would discuss with Putin the development of military and technical cooperation between Russia and Syria, including the supply of Russian missiles to Damascus. Before Asad’s visit, the head of Syria’s parliament, Mahmoud al-Abrash, was quoted by Vremya Novostei newspaper as saying Asad will not discuss new military supplies.

Reports on new contracts to supply Russian missile complexes to Syria appeared earlier in January. Israel expressed deep concern in connection with those reports. However, Russia’s Foreign and Defense Ministries have refuted this information. Putin assured Israeli PM Ariel Sharon that Russia would not conclude such a deal with Syria.

On Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov described U.S. accusations that Syria is supporting extremists in Iraq and other places as unacceptable and groundless. “We are alarmed by the situation that has been arising around Syria. It is important to prevent the appearance of new seats of tension in that crisis-ridden part of the world,” he said but noted that “the language of threats can only further worsen the situation.”

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